The ADA has joined a coalition of more than 80 healthcare, civil rights, and other organizations in thanking Representative Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Delaware) for introducing HR 2295, the HIV Epidemic Loan-Repayment Program (HELP) Act.
In a letter to Blunt Rochester, the organizations note the remarkable advances in treatment that enable people with HIV to live nearly normal lifespans when diagnosed early. These advances also suppress HIV to undetectable levels and prevent transmission.
Yet more than 38,000 people are newly diagnosed with HIV each year, the letter said, and of the 1.1 million people living with HIV in the United States, only 62% of adults had sustained viral suppression.
Additionally, disparities in HIV care and treatment are greatest among Black and Latinx Americans, the letter said, who together represent 69% of new HIV diagnoses, and in the Southern United States, which accounts for 51% of new HIV diagnoses.
The letter further noted that the number of HIV clinicians entering the field is falling well short of demand, even though people managed by expert HIV clinicians have better outcomes and that more people now need lifelong HIV care.
“The HELP Act would incentivize and support qualified clinicians, clinical pharmacists, and dentists to enter the HIV clinical and dental workforce by authorizing a new program that would offer up to $250,000 in educational loan repayment to physicians, nurse practitioners, physicians assistants, clinical pharmacists, and dentists in exchange for up to five years of service at Ryan White-funded clinical sites and in health profession shortage areas,” the letter explained.
“At this pivotal time, we have the tools to end HIV as an epidemic in the US and a federal initiative and a plan to do so,” the letter continued. “The HELP Act is critical to reverse workforce shortages that are particularly acute in the Southern US and further exacerbated as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.”